Jamaican entrepreneur honored for serving Miami community

MIAMI – Jamaican national, Livingston ‘George’ Yap, owner of LEASA Industries, in Liberty City, North Miami, was one of the ten honorees at The second annual Community and Business Leaders Appreciation Award event.

The second annual Community and Business Leaders Appreciation Award event was organized by the Black Heritage Advisory Board of Miami Dade County and Universal MazJac Enterprises, Incorporated, a national marketing agency.

The ten honorees were selected from various fields for their role in community development, namely entrepreneurship, education, media, public service and community and social awareness.

George Yap is known for his ongoing commitment for economic development in North Miami. And, today, he continues to receive numerous national and regional awards for not only building a successful family venture but also assisting in the development of one of Miami’s inner city communities – Liberty City.

LEASA Industries is the largest grower of bean and alfalfa sprouts and the largest manufacturer of tofu in Florida. Recent data from the Soyfood Industry and Market Report ranks the company among the top 20 in the entire United States with an annual revenue of $5.7 million.

The wide range of almost 40 retail products bearing the name LEASA can be seen prominently displayed in the produce section of the leading supermarkets in the region including Publix, Winn Dixie, gourmet and local Chinese grocery stores.

The wide range of retail products supplied consists of a variety of fresh-cut and pre-packaged vegetable and fruits using technologically advanced equipment at the processing facility located in North Miami. They have also expanded their supplies to other major cities throughout the USA.

Managements of both leading supermarkets have expressed ongoing strong business relationship with LEASA as the product line meets quality standards for growth at approximately 20% annually in the respective stores.

LEASA uses hydroponics technology to three million pounds of bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts. Almost one and one-half (1.5) million pounds of tofu is also produced annually. The Yap family migrated to South Florida in the mid-1970s, from Kingston, Jamaica, descendants of Chinese emigrants to Jamaica.

Already businesspersons, they decided to purchase a bankrupt bean sprout company in Liberty City, naming it LEASA Industries, the acronym representing the first initial of each family member’s first name – Mr. Yap, his wife Einez, (recently deceased) and his four children – Andrew, Sean, Allison and another daughter named Lisa.

Overcoming several obstacles affecting company sales, and almost failing, the company owners were determined to survive. With tenacity and resilience, LEASA Industries has surpassed difficult times and revived itself from the ‘red’ as one of the largest growers of those products which is in demand today, especially when we have become so ‘health conscious and economically-minded’ as consumers.

Mr. Yap has since then taught himself the ropes of the trade in successfully managing and mastering a range of specialty products.

What has made LEASA Industries so special to economic and development officials in the County, and the community at large, and so deserving of the numerous awards received is their heartfelt commitment to helping the less fortunate in those neighboring communities.

The majority of LEASA’s 70 employees are former welfare recipients, school dropouts and ex-convicts whom Mr. Yap wants ‘to give a second chance.’ Those hired, reside in the economically depressed neighborhoods like Liberty City, Overtown, and Opa Locka among others. As he continues to provide job opportunities at the same time helping to rebuild families, he holds on steadfastly to his philosophy “Do all we can do to help those need help the most. In this way we can make the community a better place to live.”

Because of the success of company’s like LEASA for almost 30 years, and the dedication and commitment from its owners to economic revitalization in the Poinciana Industrial Center, a Dade County Enterprise Zone, Dade County government leaders as well as the Beacon Council and Chamber of Commerce in the Miami area continue to attract business operators to locate and expand in the same manner as the Yaps with a taste for success and a heart for social responsibility. He has handed over the realms of management to his older son, Andrew, also an adjunct professor at Florida International University.

Included in the long list of awards and accolades received for their outstanding accomplishments and achievements as entrepreneurs are the United States Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency Award 1997 for national minority manufacturer; the 1999 Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative State Honoree; and the 1999 South Florida Business Journal Manufacturer of the Year. Also in 1999, national trade magazine, Inc. Magazine – Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) ranked LEASA Industries as one of the 100 fastest growing businesses based in core urban areas throughout the United States.

LEASA Industries continue to be an ardent supporter of the Jamaican- Chinese community in South Florida as well as internationally. Mr. Yap serves the community through various civic associations and boards. Up to the time of her death in May last year, Mrs. Einez Yap was president of the Chinese Cultural Foundation, a non-profit organization for the development of the Chinese immigrant community here in the USA as the Chinese Benevolent Society in Jamaica.

Mr. Yap continues to serve as a board member to the Jamaica USA Chamber of Commerce in Florida since its inception in March 2004. A true philanthropist, he remains dedicated to his Jamaican community here in South Florida through sponsorship and participating in social events, and has even extended his efforts to giving back to the broader South Florida community.

The awards illustrate the positive direction LEASA has taken towards maintaining and simultaneously enhancing the standards for production within the business community nationwide.

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